Comelec pressured to DQ Poe? Bautista says 'majority won'


MANILA - Was the Commission on Elections pressured to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe in the 2016 presidential race?

According to Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista, he felt no "utang na loob" or debt of gratitude to his fellow commissioners when they voted to disqualify from running in the 2016 race.

"Sa amin, we are a 7-member commission. Kumbaga, kanya-kanya kaming kuro-kuro. Kanya-kanyang pag-iisip. In the end, majority wins. Ang maganda naman po lahat kami ay independent," he said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TV Patrol.

"Wala po akong utang na loob sa aking pag-a-appoint dun po sa aking kapwa miembro and vice-versa. So kami pagka botohan, kanya-kanya pong pag-iisip ang lumalabas at kung sino ang magiging majority, yun ang mananaig."

The Comelec en banc earlier voted 7-0 that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino. The commission also voted 5-2 that Poe does not meet the ten-year residency requirement.

READ: How they voted: Comelec sustains Poe disqualification

Poe has vowed to bring the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.

In the interview, Bautista reiterated that Poe had no intent to mislead the public when she declared in her certificate of candidacy for president that she is a natural born Filipino and that she meets the 10-year residency requirement for candidates.

This is despite his own belief that Poe failed to meet the 10-year residency requirement needed for presidential candidates and that the senator is not a natural-born Filipino.

"Sa tingin ko talaga, medyo nagkulang yung kanyang residency. At yung kanyang pagiging natural born, kasi nga ang mga foundling talaga nahihirapang ipakita yung kanilang blood relation," he said.

Bautista said he sees no deliberate intent to mislead on the part of Poe, noting that the senator could have been given different advice by her lawyers. This is despite the different dates indicated in Poe's certificates of candidacies for the 2013 and 2016 elections.

Poe had earlier declared she was a resident of the Philippines 6 years and 6 months prior to the May 2013 election in her COC, thus making her fall short of the 10-year residency for presiden

"Mahirap ipakita na niloloko lang ng isang kandidato ang mga bumoboto tungkol sa kanyang estado," Bautista said.

READ: Grace Poe to take disqualification cases to SC

In his opinion on the Comelec en banc decision, Bautista wrote that Poe's declaration in her 2016 COC "that she would have been a resident of the Philippines for 10 years and 11 months by May 9, 2016 is false."

"However, I am satisfied with respondent's explanation in her motion for reconsideration that her 'false' statement in her 2013 COC was just due to an honest mistake which was supposedly caused by the ambiguity in the said COC. Respondent posits that because of the purported ambiguity in the phrase, period of residence in the Philippines before May 13, 2013, found in the 2013 COC, she chose to err on the side of prudence and interpreted such phrase to mean the date of filing of said COC in October 2012."

The Comelec chief also urged Congress to enact curative legislation with the effect of deeming foundlings as former Filipinos who have lost their citizenship and need only to register themselves to reacquire the same similar to the effect of repatriation.

In the interview, Bautista denied that the Comelec en banc rushed to release its rulings on the petitions to disqualify Poe before Christmas. He noted that the release of the rulings gives Poe enough time to seek legal recourse from the Supreme Court.

The Comelec chief noted releasing the decisions next year might affect the printing of ballots.